Saperstein: "The District of Columbia’s plan to provide funding to the Central Union Mission, a pervasively sectarian institution, is an egregious breach of the separation between church and state."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 19, 2008 – In response to the filing of Chane v. District of Columbia objecting to the District of Columbia’s plan to fund a pervasively sectarian organization, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism released the following statement:
The District of Columbia’s plan to provide funding to the Central Union Mission, a pervasively sectarian institution, is an egregious breach of the separation between church and state. Though we uphold the Mission’s right to ground and frame its work in religious teachings, worship and proselytization, we stand firm that the government can in no way finance programs that include in such activities or that require welfare recipients to participate in such activities as a condition of receiving benefits. Doing so is a disservice to taxpayers of all faiths and no faith.
Further, the government cannot be in the business of funding discrimination, and Central Union does that in their hiring. As a religious institution relying on its own private sources of funding, the Central Union Mission may choose to hire only those who self-identify as Christians and to infuse its good work with religious activity. Indeed, as a religious institution, we similarly believe strongly in the importance of maintaining the religious character of the work we do. But as soon as taxpayer dollars enter the equation, we must strongly object to the use of such funds to discriminate in hiring – to carry out religious activity – or to go to institutions that engage in such activities.
We look forward to the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia’s decision in upholding the primacy of First Amendment principles in this case.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.